Change of Baton in Western Naval Command

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Chiemelie Ezeobi

As with most military traditions, the handing and taking over ceremony of commands provides ample opportunities to showcase their longstanding tradition in colourful parades. So it was last Wednesday at the Western Naval Command (WNC), in Lagos. The occasion was the farewell parade and send off ceremony of Rear Admiral Obed Ngalabak as the 38th Flag Officer Commanding (FOC). He handed over to Rear Admiral Oladele Daji, making him the 39th FOC of the command.

The military is an institution known for adhering to tradition no matter how long ago it was established. Tradition, they say, never dies and that particularly holds true for the military. For the Nigerian Navy, one of the three arms of the Nigerian Armed Forces, is not an exception.

For the navy, instead of tradition being deemed as archaic and out-dated, they are seen as an anchor to their past, constantly reminding them of where they are coming from, where they are now, and where they hope to be. It would therefore be safe to say that the very tapestry or fabric that holds the military together is its customs and traditions.

Even though those traditions might not be understood by civilians, because of what they deem excessive regimentation, for the military, the traditions are their heritage, even as they seek to align themselves with contemporary modern day structures and practices.

Thus, after spending seven months at the helm of affairs, it was time to say goodbye for Ngalabak. The occasion was heralded by a ceremonial parade, which saw officers and men of the command assemble at the parade ground of Nigerian Navy Ship (NNS) BEECROFT, Apapa.

The parade began with form up of divisions and the guards before the throw in markers and march on of the divisions and guards. After the arrival of the senior officers, the parade was officially kick-started with a march past that was inspected by Ngalabak. He afterward went on to read his farewell speech leading to the FOC’s exchange of Distinguishing Flags. After the marching in review order and three hearty cheers for him, the parade commander then marched off the personnel.

In his valedictory remarks, Ngalabak appealed to other security agencies, personnel to collaborate with his successor, who he said, would improve on existing foundation. He further noted that under his watch, the command arrested about 26 vessels, 70 suspects and rescued a vessel hijacked by pirates.

Meanwhile, his successor, while reacting to questions on how to stem the tide of kidnapping and hostage-taking in riverine areas, he said they will take the battle to the enclaves of the criminals, since the NN had already identified their hideouts.

Although the admiral denied there was spate in these vices, he however assured that steps were already on to flush out the criminals from their hideouts.

“We are so lucky in the military in that our roles and tasks have been defined and cut out for us. For the navy, we are guided by the vision and mission of the Chief of the Naval Staff (CNS) as well as the Strategic Directives.

“Just as the outgone FOC mentioned, the command has strived over the years to deliver on its mandate. What we are only coming to do is build upon, bring fresh ideas into some of the challenges we have in the maritime expanse.

“Luckily for us, the federal government under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari has been able to acquire more boats for us to patrol. This is not to say we have enough to cover our vast maritime space but with what we have and the strategy of using the Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA), we will ensure the assets provided for us are effectively used to accomplish the tasks ahead.

“The data we have at the Naval Headquarters show that kidnapping is on the decline. Perhaps, there are one or two cases with prominence which make it seem as though it is on the increase. It is actually on the decline.

“That notwithstanding, the FOC briefed me in his handing over. We are going to the source to rout them out. These people do not live perpetually at sea, they have where they operate from. That is one of our strategies and I won’t say more than that.”